Philanthropist Dwight Schar is a builder in every sense

By Buzz McClain and Rob Riordan

Ever the entrepreneur, Dwight Schar supplemented his post-college teaching career by selling homes on weekends. Eventually the urge not only to sell homes but to build them eclipsed his drive to teach, leading to a position with builder Ryan Homes. From 1969 to 1973, Schar helped turn the developer into one of the largest builders in his Midwest territory.

By 1987, Schar’s own company, NVHomes, founded in 1980, acquired his former employer Ryan Homes and in the process became the Northern Virginia region’s largest homebuilder. Today, NVR, Inc., a Fortune 500 company, employs 5,000 people and is the fourth-largest homebuilder in the country, operating in 14 states.

Schar is active in a number of charitable and business ventures, including co-owner of the Washington Redskins, owner of a residential development company in Orlando, Fla. and a former co-owner of Dick Clark Productions.

Although building has consumed Schar’s entrepreneurial instincts, he has not abandoned education. Today he is a significant benefactor to schools close to his heart, including his high school (Norwayne High in Creston, Ohio), his alma mater (Ashland University), Elon University and George Mason University.

This week Schar made his most significant impact on Mason—where previously he has endowed a faculty chair, supported the school’s Center for Regional Analysis and served on the Mason Foundation board of trustees—with a $10 million gift to rename the School of Policy, Government and International Affairs to the Schar School of Policy and Government.

The long-time Mason benefactor—he received the Mason Medal, the school’s highest honor, in 2003—has said, “If you have been blessed with the resources to make a difference in the lives of others, don’t wait. However, be wise in your approach to philanthropy. Find an unmet need and then investigate how your donation will have the greatest impact.”

Clearly he is heeding his own words with his gift to Mason.